On September 30, 2009, U.S. Department of the Interior (“DOI”) Secretary Ken Salazar said that DOI will be fast-tracking seven of thirty project applications for rights of way on public lands in Idaho, California, and Nevada.  These projects are expected to have permits by the end of the year, and are part of an effort to increase transmission for renewable energy projects.  Once these projects are completed, more than 1,000 miles of new transmission will be added to the nation’s grid.
While the DOI will fast track these seven projects at its Bureau of Land Management, there still may be local and state hurdles left to clear.  The seven projects include an 87-mile Barren Ridge project in Kern and Los Angeles counties.  The Barren Ridge project, which is being developed by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, includes a new 230 kV line.  Two other projects of note include the California segment of Southern California Edison Co.’s 500 kV Devers-Palo Verde Two Project and Bonneville Power Administration’s Hooper Springs-Lower Valley Energy project, which includes a new 138/115 kV substation and a new 22-mile 115 kV transmission line. 

Secretary Salazar emphasized the need for a cohesive federal energy siting process and stated a Cabinet-level, cross-agency working group has convened to address national transmission issues.  Some of the groups participating with the DOI are the Council on Environmental Quality, the Office of Energy and Climate Change, the Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  Along with establishing a coordinated federal review process for new transmission and fast-tracking transmission projects, Secretary Salazar also said there is a need to establish electric corridors that connect renewable energy sources to metropolitan areas. 

 A complete copy of Salazar’s speech is available at: http://www.doi.gov/secretary/speeches/093009_speech.html.